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Suspiria: Limited Edition

Having already shown a mastery of the Giallo (i.e. "pulp") film with 1975's Profundo Rosso, Dario Argento branched out into gothic horror with his next picture, Suspiria. Argento was the son of a producer and well-steeped in the film world when he began writing screenplays in 1967 — leading him to work on the script for Sergio Leone's Once upon a Time in the West (1968) with Bernardo Bertolucci. But it was his directing debut in 1970 with the breakout hit The Bird with Crystal Plumage that established him as a Giallo auteur to be reckoned with. His work had a lyrical quality, and he was exceptionally talented in staging elaborate murder sequences; with 1977's Suspiria, he transferred his epic scope and poetic qualities to a horror film and made a classic of it's kind. Suspiria's plot is incidental: Susy Bannion (Jessica Harper) is an American ballet student who comes to study at a prestigious European dance academy run by Madame Blanc (Joan Benett, known best as the Femme Fatale in Scarlet Street). But as she arrives, another student runs out of the academy and is shortly thereafter murdered. Living situations become confused for Susy, but it is apparent to her that something weird is afoot, and (as the score tells us almost immediately) it's got something to do with witches. Susy and her next door neighbor Sara (Stefania Casini) start investigating what they can, but people keep dying around them. Films like Suspiria exist almost entirely for the ritualistic grand Guginol killings that populate them, but no director makes such poetry of murder as Argento, with Suspiria so operatic that the even the most gruesome gore (we see a knife pierce someone's heart from the inside) becomes necessary. One of the last films shot in the three-strip Technicolor process (which allows for vibrant primary colors), Argento and cinematographer Luciano Tovoli fill the film with a brash palette, and as complimented by the set designs of Giuseppe Bassan, the film is so rich it becomes visceral, a sonnet of gothic horror. Argento has a master's sense of framing for mood — the widescreen photography is continually stunning — but the key element to the film's power is the score by the prog-rock band Goblin (joined by Argento), which is so engrossing that it becomes as important as the color schema. The first in a supposed trilogy (the second film, Inferno, was completed, but the third film is still unproduced), Argento was influenced by Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but Suspiria has proved just as influential on both Italian and American cinema (John Carpenter has stolen from this movie on multiple occasions). There are two DVD releases of Suspiria from Anchor Bay, but both present the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 6.1, along with a Italian 2.0 track. Purists may be upset the Italian track is not as well looked after as the English, but the film was meant to be in English, and wasn't shot with synch sound (a practice that wasn't adopted in Italian cinema until relatively recently). For extras, both sets come with a Daemonia music video, theatrical trailers, a TV spot, three radio spots, talent bios, poster and still gallery. But the three-disc "Limited Edition" set (from a run of 60,000) offers Suspiria 25th Anniversary, a new 52-minute documentary on the making of the film featuring Argento, co-writer Daria Nicolodi, Tovoli, Goblin, Agostino Marangolo, Massimo Morante, Fabio Pignatelli, and more. The third disc is the Original Goblin Soundtrack CD, which for the casual collector will not justify the price increase. Dual-DVD keep-case.

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